Wednesday, 29 July 2015

ICELAND May/June 1989

I met Megan in spring 1985 and four years later we were married.  It is probably the best thing I ever did.  We visited Iceland for our honeymoon and this blog includes a few photos we took during our ten days there.  Most of mine were horribly over-exposed due to an incorrect film-speed setting on my camera, Megan was more successful with a small pocket camera.

Iceland was a destination we felt we wouldn’t easily forget and I was keen to see Harlequin and Barrow’s Goldeneye having not seen the later and only a female of the former, somewhat distantly on Shetland two years previously.

On 26 May we flew into Reykjavik where we spent four nights in a hotel near the airport.  We took a city tour (on which it was announced with some enthusiasm that the outside temperature was plus one) and visited an open air museum (where it certainly wasn’t that warm) before joining a ‘Golden Circle tour’ to Gullfoss, Geysir and Thingvellir.  Our hotel was close to the coast and not far from the town enabling us to go on a few interesting walks between tours.  Steam coming off geothermally heated streams provided some amusement especially when there were people sitting in them!  The thermally heated open-air pool was very popular too.  Food was very expensive, perhaps not surprising as most was imported, and we took advantage of lavish buffet breakfasts, although not quite to the extent of some guests who made large packed lunches from it.

A few Barrow’s Goldeneye were seen around Reykjavik each day as well as Whooper Swans, Scaup, Eider and a single Long-tailed Duck.  Other more interesting sightings were a flock of 150 Knot, 18 Red-necked Phalaropes and several Glaucous Gulls and Snow Buntings.  We saw a male Harlequin at Gullfoss, a very impressive waterfall on our Golden Circle tour.  We then visited Geysir which was spouting regularly to moderate heights, but still was a little disappointing, and a rather unmemorable Thingvellir and seeing Pink-footed Geese, Merlin, Ptarmigan and Black-tailed Godwits on the way.  We called in at a Garden Centre on the return to Reykjavik.  It was treated as a great novelty and was perhaps the only one in Iceland?  Indoor plants were their speciality but then nothing exotic would be likely to grow outside! 

Hofdi House in Reykjavik, neutral venue for the 1986 Reagan-Gorbachev summit 
me at Reykjavik Harbour
Megan at Tjornin Lake in central Reykjavik
Scaup on Tjorin
Reykjavik main street
our hotel
Reykjavik skyline
the biggest trees we saw
Megan at the Open Air Museum

me there too
volcano crater on our Golden Circle Tour
Gullfoss

hot pool at Geysir
Geysir spouting

Geysir
 On 30 May we flew to Akureyri for five nights in a waterfront hotel and hired a car to visit Darvik, Myvatyn and Husavik.  Akureyri is at the head of Eyjafjordyr and on our first evening we walked down to the harbour and along the coast seeing a pair of Harlequins.  They were to be a regular feature of evening walks.  On our first day with a car we drove 50km or so to Darvik a smaller town on the west side of the fjord.  We saw three Harlequins on a river near Hrisey, Slavonian Grebe, 22 Red-necked Phalaropes, 2 Iceland and 10 Glaucous Gulls, 4 Black Guillemots, Short-eared Owl and 6 Snow Buntings. 

Akureyri
Ejya Fjord
Akureyri waterfront
en route to Dalvik
Slavonian Grebe


Dalvik
Iceland Gull
Grimsey, Ejya Fjord and our car
Dalvik to Akureyri main road
south of Dalvik
snow-capped mountains all around
Harlequins at Akureyri

The following day we set off early for Lake Myvatyn which I had been very keen to visit for some time.  A big advantage of visiting in early June is that it was too early for the midges which plague some visitors although parts of the lake were still frozen!  We briefly stopped at Godafoss on the way but the draw of wildfowl was too great (for me anyway).  Driving around the lake we saw 3 Red-throated and 4 Great Northern Divers, 18 Slavonian Grebes, 25 Whooper Swans, 14 species of duck including Harlequins and Barrow's Goldeneye, 25 Ptarmigan, 95 Red-necked Phalaropes, Arctic Skua, Short-eared Owl and 6 Snow Buntings.

Godafoss
Megan at Godafoss
Tufted Duck on a lake near Myvatyn.  We saw 250 during the day and 75 Scaup
Long-tailed Ducks on a slowly thawing lake.  We saw 16 in total.
wintery scene west of Myvatyn, it was hard to believe it was 1 June.
Harlequin by the Laxa River, 66 of the day's total of 79 were here (11 at Frijodten and we got back to Akureyri in time to see our usual pair)




Barrow's Goldeneye, we saw at least 50
lava field at Myvatyn
Myvatyn
Great Northern Diver
most of the lake was unfrozen
Dimberger lava at Myvatyn

Myvatyn 'slagheap'

hot sulphur pools near Myvatyn

we found these almost as impressive as those at Geysir and having them to ourselves was much nicer!



leaving Myvatyn
We had a day around Akureyri when I thought I had found an immature male King Eider in a colony of Eider at the end of the runway.  It was present on subsequent days but checking when I got home revealed a few plumage inconsistencies and I concluded it was a hybrid which I later discovered had been present for a couple of years.

Akureyri
Akureyri waterfront
Fulmar
Icelandic Redwing
Icelandic Redpoll
summer plumaged Purple Sandpiper
Eider
opposite Akureyri on the drive to Husavik


Black-tailed Godwit on the way to Husavik
Puffins at Husavik
auks and a pair of Harlequins (nearest birds) at Husavik
returning to Akureyri
Akureyri from across the fjord

farewell Harlequins
Megan outside Akureyri
me near Akureyri Airport, pleased to be wearing gloves in early June